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Ukrainian Air Force Modernization

This is a discussion on Ukrainian Air Force Modernization within the Air Force & Aviation forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; The German journal "Flieger Revue" published an article on the recent development of Ukraine's Air Force. According to it the ...


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Old January 10th, 2012   #1
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Ukrainian Air Force Modernization

The German journal "Flieger Revue" published an article on the recent development
of Ukraine's Air Force. According to it the frontline squadrons currently operate
36 Su 27, 80 MiG 29, 40 Su 24 M/MR and 36 Su 25. These are augmented by some 40 L 39 and a handful of transports (Il 76, An 26, An 72).
The helicopter units operate more than a hundred Mi 8 and about 40 Mi 24.

The MoD's plans call for the retirement of another 16 MiG 29, 4 Su 24 and 12 Su 25
until 2015. The only new aircraft on order, however, are 3 An 70 transports.
At the moment only a hundful of the service's MiG 29 and Su 25 have been upgraded with new navigation systems, night vision goggles and partially with new radars. If it goes on like this, there will be no more operational aircraft left within some years as all of the current machines are already 22-25 years old.

So what will be future of the Ukrainian Air Force be? To operate increasingly obsolete aircraft in dwindling numbers and end up completely unarmed one day due to lack of fundings? I find it quite strange that at the same time the MoD orders several new warships (3 plus 3 three more planned) while it is complaining that
there is no money left to buy new tanks and aircraft.
Is there any particular reasn why the smallest branch of the country's armed forces gets the largest share of the budget?
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Old January 10th, 2012   #2
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Ukraine inherited a large & well-equipped army & air force from the USSR - but Russia kept most of the Black Sea Fleet. The navy is therefore very small & weak. The air force will need new aircraft eventually, to replace (no doubt with smaller numbers) the still quite large force it has, but can keep going for a while with modernisation of some aircraft, but the navy had almost nothing to start with, & doesn't have that possibility.

Ukraine should have retired the bulk of its air force 20 years ago. Sold off some types completely to ease logistics, & used some of the rest for spares sources. That would have enabled them to modernise the newest airframes, & have a relatively efficient force. Instead, large numbers of aircraft were kept flying - occasionally - or nominally in service but parked, & lots of pilots kept on the books but rarely allowed to fly. Costly & ineffective.
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Old January 10th, 2012   #3
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I don't think Ukraine is really going to be a military led nation.

They remind me of Canada, where they will probably operate very few kinds of air craft because their neutral to everyone.


All I ever read about Ukraine is them dismantling weapons and signing all these peace treaties.
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Old January 10th, 2012   #4
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But if they want to remain neutral, they will in fact need more aircraft
and other weapons as they don't have any allies (but, fortunately, no
real opponents, too, at least now).

The question is what Ukraine really needs to defend its territory in case
of a war. I don't think that the navy would be of great help in such a scenario,
but perhaps they're trying to get some warships to take part in peacekeeping
missions to increase their political influence this way.

Russia recently demonstrated the Su 30 in Ukraine. It could possibly replace
MiG 29s, Su 27s, and Su 24s. But as the relations with Russia aren't as friendly
as they were some time ago I suppose Ukraine won't buy them.
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Old January 10th, 2012   #5
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But as the relations with Russia aren't as friendly
as they were some time ago I suppose Ukraine won't buy them.

Right, from what I understand, Ukraine is close to the west, don't they support NATO?
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Old January 10th, 2012   #6
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Right, from what I understand, Ukraine is close to the west, don't they support NATO?
Ukraine doesn't have a consistent foreign policy because of internal political instability.
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Old January 10th, 2012   #7
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The only new aircraft on order, however, are 3 An 70 transports.
At the moment only a hundful of the service's MiG 29 and Su 25 have been upgraded with new navigation systems, night vision goggles and partially with new radars. If it goes on like this, there will be no more operational aircraft left within some years as all of the current machines are already 22-25 years old.
The upgrades are minimal, I suspect smaller then even the SM program for the VVS RF Flankers, and the SMT variant for the Fulcrums. And one of the An-70s produced for the Ukranian MoD ended up getting sold to VVS RF a few weeks ago, because the Ukranians couldn't pay for it.

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So what will be future of the Ukrainian Air Force be? To operate increasingly obsolete aircraft in dwindling numbers and end up completely unarmed one day due to lack of fundings? I find it quite strange that at the same time the MoD orders several new warships (3 plus 3 three more planned) while it is complaining that
there is no money left to buy new tanks and aircraft.
Is there any particular reasn why the smallest branch of the country's armed forces gets the largest share of the budget?
They "order" new ships. Whether anything happens remains to be seen. The other quandary of course is that they don't have the best relations with Russia, certainly not consistently, yet they're not willing to buy western weapons and equipment either (not to mention they can't afford it). I suspect that if Ukraine joins the Customs Union, and the Eurasian Union (and that is possible if they are successful) then they will negotiate some sort of deal for new or used Flankers or Fulcrums from Russia. For example once the PAK-FA and Su-35S enter service in serious numbers the MiG-29SMTs the VVS currently flies will become seriously outdated, while still being relatively new. Those could get sold off to Ukraine, though Belarus is also a likely customer.

Swerve correctly identified the problem of them having a force structure too large for their budget. What he didn't mention is that their budget is so tiny, they would have an army the size of Austria, if they were to actually to size it down to the level of their budget.

Iirc their budget in 2010 was something like 1.7 bln USD?
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Old January 11th, 2012   #8
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That's correct.

This year the overall size of the military will be reduced by a further 8000 soldiers and other personell.

At the moment it is quite unlikely that Ukraine wants to join the customs union, but on the other hand nobody knows whether the treaty with the EU will be signed or not. The signing has been postponed to february, but the Ukrainian authorities will probably not change their attitude towards the rule of law and political pluralism in such a short timespan. The question is whether the EU will tolerate this. The future of the Ukrainian military largely depends on this decision as a closer integration with the west would inflict heavy damage on its relations to Russia.

I personally think that Ukraine should cooperate with Russia, because they will never implement the reforms required for EU membership (and that's the only thing that would reallly help them).
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Old February 9th, 2012   #9
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The Ukrainian MoD announced that this year 21 overhauled and upgraded aircraft
and 5 helicopters will be delivered to the Air Force. Aircraft include MiG 29S
(new missiles, radar, night vision), Su 25BM (night vision devices) and L 39.
The helicopters will probably be Mi 24s, which will receive new electronics of French
origin and new powerplants and missiles produced in Ukraine.

The overall defence budget has been increased to 2 bl $, what is still insufficient
to buy new aircraft.

(source: ukrinform.ua)
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Old February 9th, 2012   #10
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The Ukrainian MoD announced that this year 21 overhauled and upgraded aircraft
and 5 helicopters will be delivered to the Air Force. Aircraft include MiG 29S
(new missiles, radar, night vision), Su 25BM (night vision devices) and L 39.
The helicopters will probably be Mi 24s, which will receive new electronics of French
origin and new powerplants and missiles produced in Ukraine.

The overall defence budget has been increased to 2 bl $, what is still insufficient
to buy new aircraft.

(source: ukrinform.ua)
That's interesting. A new radar for the MiG-29S? What radar?
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Old February 10th, 2012   #11
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I don't know any details, only that it is claimed to have a range of 100 km.
As current western radars already have higher performance, I guess it's a Ukrainian
one. Furthermore the MiG 29 will be equipped with the locally-designed Gran short-range AAM.
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Old February 16th, 2012   #12
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The upgraded MiG 29 can engage targets over distances of up to 100 km.
For this purpose it will be equipped with a long-range version off the R-27.
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Old February 23rd, 2012   #13
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Ukraine has been flight testing an upgraded Mi-24P. A total of 30 flights, 35 hours in the air, and live-fire of unguided missiles and bombs. Supposedly it has new engines of Ukrainian manufacture, a new digital FCS, and a defense suite against SAMs.

Lenta.ru:

This might be the upgraded helicopters mentioned earlier. These "grand" plans call for 5 of these helicopters, probably for testing and experimental exploitation, to be delivered this year. This is quite realistic, and if they can get a decent size batch upgraded, would improve their combat readiness considerably. However the bigger issue is whether they can get their pilots flight time up, so they can effectively employ these new helos.

Overall the upgrade seems fairly minor. It doesn't mention night capability, nor new guided weapon systems. The new engines will help with keeping the helos air-worthy.

EDIT: The upgraded Mi-24P in Ukraine is carrying a new FCS from NPK Arsenal, a new missile Barrier-V from KB Luch, a new TVZ-177VMA-SBM1B from Motor Sich, an optical-electronic suppression station called Adros, and some European avionics namely from Sagem, a French company part of Safran Group.

http://www.arms-expo.ru/055057052124...057049049.html

It's noteworthy that this info comes from UkrSpetsEksport. In other words this is meant for export. It might also be meant for the Ukrainian military, but given the fate of most Ukrainian arms programs, I have my doubts.

Last edited by Feanor; February 28th, 2012 at 04:56 PM.
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Old March 25th, 2012
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Old October 5th, 2012   #14
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The Ukrainian Air Force has taken delivery of the first three MiG-29UM1 fighters. They have been upgraded with new electronics, larger internal fuel tanks and new weapons. Range is said to be 20% larger than for the basic MiG-29S.
The new weapons are long-range versions of the R-27 missile.
Ukraine plans to upgrade at least ten MiG-29s a year, with a target of 64 to be kept in service. Whether sufficient funding can be provided is a different question.

(source: Flug Revue magazine)
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Old October 31st, 2012   #15
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The Ukrainian AF is increasing its annual flight hours.

bmpd -

So far this year, pilots across the force have spent 42 in the air versus 14 at this point last year. A definite improvement, but still far below every major air power. Another question is how many professional pilots they have and the retention rates.
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